India Prepares To Start Repatriation Flights On Thursday

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India will operate charter flights to repatriate its citizens, beginning this Thursday, May 7th. Passengers will have to pay for these flights, a trend we have seen during the crisis. Countries with these flights include the UAE, UK, US, Oman, Singapore, Kuwait, and many more. Nearly 200,000 citizens in UAE alone have signed up for the flights, showing the massive task ahead.

Air India Narrowbody
Air India, the flag carrier, will conduct many repatriation efforts. Photo: Getty Images

A much-needed mission

India has the largest diaspora in the world, with tens of millions of citizens living in foreign countries. The coronavirus forced India to suspend flights, and countries around the world to close their borders. These restrictions came suddenly, with just a few day’s notice, meaning people were unable to return before flights were banned.

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India’s international flight ban in March left millions stranded and airlines grounded. Photo: Getty Images

Since the flight ban, several countries have flown special flights to evacuate their citizens, notably Japan, the USA, UK, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and many more. However, India refrained from bringing back its citizens as the virus continued to spread at home and aboard. Barring a few missions from China, Iran, and Italy, the country has not flown any other rescue flights. However, this is set to change later this week.

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A herculean task ahead

According to preliminary plans, India will operate 64 flights from 12 countries, bringing home nearly 14,800 citizens. However, it seems that demand will substantially outstrip supply.

Nearly 200,000 citizens have signed up for flights from the UAE alone, which is home to the largest Indian diaspora worldwide. This likely means the demand for rescue flights is in the millions and will require hundreds of flights over the coming weeks. Air India seems to be leading the efforts as the country’s flag carrier, but we might see more airlines helping soon.

Air India
Demand for repatriation flights could be in the millions. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Notably, the passengers will bear the cost of repatriation flights. This trend has become common during the crisis, with some countries charging extremely high amounts to cover costs. Flights from London to Delhi will cost Rs 50,000 (US$660) and those from Dhaka to Delhi will be Rs 12,000 (US$158). Pricing seems to be based on distance so passengers can expect flights from the US to be higher, while those from the Gulf to be somewhere between this range.

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Everyone returning is required to be quarantined in a hospital or government facility for two weeks. The efforts could take a few months, as the government tries to ensure the system is not overwhelmed with too many returnees.

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Overall

India’s plans for repatriation flights will be a positive announcement for millions of citizens who have been stranded for months. The coming days will see detailed flight schedules, prices, and more details on these flights. We might even see more flights operating as more and more citizens register to return to India. Anyone who requires such flights should immediately contact their local consulates or embassy to register.

Are you planning to take a repatriation flight back to India? How has the flight ban impacted you? Let us know in the comments below. 

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